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Adoption of the technology remains a top priority for the department, officials said.

(Getty Images)

The Pentagon’s topline budget ask for artificial intelligence in fiscal 2025 is $1.8 billion — the same amount requested for fiscal 2024 — due to the deal Congress and federal leadership made last year via the Fiscal Responsibility Act, to temporarily suspend the nation’s debt limit but impose caps on discretionary spending.

It’s no secret that the Defense Department and military have been deliberately prioritizing AI pursuits and working to strategically drive momentum around the technology’s adoption in recent years, particularly as they prepare for potentially higher-tech conflicts down the line.

After unveiling new documents and details about the Defense Department’s FY ’25 budget request on Monday, officials told DefenseScoop that the fact that their AI topline requests appear to remain flat between FY ’24 and ’25 does not reflect any change in how they view that technology as a top priority.

“The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) caps are mandatory and, if disregarded or exceeded, would be enforced by sequestration. Understanding those fiscal constraints, the department made responsible choices to prioritize readiness and take care of people but make targeted reductions to programs that will not deliver capability to the force until the 2030s, preserving and enhancing the Joint Force’s ability to fight and win in the near term,” a Pentagon spokesperson explained.

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After a negotiation between Congress and the White House, President Joe Biden signed the FRA into law in June 2023. In exchange for lifting the debt ceiling, the legislation introduced limits on discretionary spending for defense and non-defense programs. 

The overarching aim of FRA was to essentially reduce the projected deficit levels by approximately $1.5 trillion over the 10-year period between fiscal years 2024 and 2033.

During a press briefing at the Pentagon on Monday about the latest DOD request, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks made a point to note that unlike all of the current administration’s prior budgets to date, this one is “capped by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”

“Because of these statutory caps — and as good stewards of taxpayer dollars — we made smart, responsible choices to work within those limits. The result is a strong focus on executability, a necessary emphasis on near-term readiness and people investments,” Hicks said. 

“But to be clear, we must grow the defense budget in the out-years of our Future Years Defense Program if we want to achieve the goals of the National Defense Strategy, and especially in the face of rapid modernization by the [People’s Republic of China],” she added.

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In response to questions from DefenseScoop, DOD officials could not immediately confirm or list all of the programs, efforts and elements that are encompassed under the department’s request for $1.8 billion for artificial intelligence.

According to the Pentagon’s budget overview, that funding proposal is meant to support “efforts to deliver and adopt responsible Al/ML-enabled capabilities on secure and reliable platforms, workforce development, and DOD-wide data management and modernization efforts.”

Brandi Vincent

Written by Brandi Vincent

Brandi Vincent is DefenseScoop’s Pentagon correspondent. She reports on emerging and disruptive technologies, and associated policies, impacting the Defense Department and its personnel. Prior to joining Scoop News Group, Brandi produced a long-form documentary and worked as a journalist at Nextgov, Snapchat and NBC Network. She was named a 2021 Paul Miller Washington Fellow by the National Press Foundation and was awarded SIIA’s 2020 Jesse H. Neal Award for Best News Coverage. Brandi grew up in Louisiana and received a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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